PUBLISHED ON: 28 May 2021

Amanda, a retired radiographer who sadly lost her daughter to breast cancer, has been volunteering with university students to share her knowledge and experiences.

Amanda, an older white woman with short grey hair, sits with a student as part of her volunteering role

Volunteering can be valuable to everyone involved

What a useful, all-purpose word 'volunteering' is. It can describe so many kinds of activities – giving up time, offering help, sharing in a cause, working together to the benefit of others and learning from those who are younger than you.

I was invited to join an innovative collaboration between Breast Cancer Now and City, University of London, involving people affected by breast cancer in the recruitment and training of radiography students. Thanks to this, I have found a new source of learning from the students, while having the privilege of sharing with them both my academic and life experiences.

From the beginning, I knew this joining together of students and service users was going to be hugely beneficial to both sides. The academic staff and the staff of Breast Cancer Now had prepared the substance of the year ahead, and their welcome and encouragement were both wonderful. I felt my first meetings with the students were already awaited with great expectations on both sides.

I told the students about losing my daughter to breast cancer

My professional back ground was in diagnostic radiography. I graduated from Westminster Hospital in 1962 and subsequently worked in London, the Highlands of Scotland and the south of France. You can imagine the students were always ready with questions like, 'Did you have a smart phone with which to ask questions?' until I gently reminded them that, in 1962, there were no such things! We did have much amusement when they realised I was rather a 'dinosaur' professionally. But I did say I had been shown all the incredible modern equipment in their department and I thought they were very lucky!

They also, very politely, wanted to know what else I had done. So I told them that I have been a volunteer fundraiser for Breast Cancer Now for 18 years, and I raise money for research into breast cancer because my beautiful youngest child, Becs, died of the disease when she was just 33. I told them I wanted to help find a future free from the fear of breast cancer and in memory of my precious Becs.

At the end of the session, many of them came up to me to say how sad they were about Becs – their kindness was overwhelming.

I feel so privileged to be a part of this

Since first speaking with the classes, I was asked to join the interview panels for the annual admissions for the next year. This was again truly enlightening, and I was so privileged to be part of the important selection for City, University of London. It was a huge responsibility to help choose the successful applicants, knowing there had been so many other applicants who, this time, we had not felt able to admit. It was another very memorable experience from which I learned so much.

This coming year will be the fourth year of my association with Breast Cancer Now and City, University of London. I am absolutely convinced that Breast Cancer Now should consider its involvement as an absolute permanency in the arrangement.

The collaboration of the two organisations is yet another new branch of the charity’s work; a particularly special one in that it brings together academic life, the experiences of generations, the enthusiasm of youth and the conviction that the meeting of different worlds will be, together, the beginning of a new world. A world in which may I continue to be involved – to the benefit, I hope, of both Breast Cancer Now, City, University of London and the amazing, special students with whom we are privileged to share a future.

Find out more about Breast Cancer Now’s exciting collaboration with City, University of London.

If, like Amanda, you want to help us by volunteering your time, knowledge or experience, we would love to work with you - check out our volunteering page, or join our Breast Cancer Voices community.

Breast Cancer Voices